Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment agency is betting that Times Square needs a Caesars Palace casino, and has joined Caesars Entertainment and Manhattan realty company SL Green in their bid to make it happen.

“New York is a beacon, the epicenter of culture,” says Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter in a statement posted on Roc Nation’s website. “We have the opportunity to create a destination at the heart of Times Square, the true crossroads of the world. My partnership with SL Green and Caesars, this coalition, has all the promise and commitment to economic opportunity, growth and enrichment for the community, and everyone who visits the Empire State.”

The partnership is hoping to build a “state-of-the-art gaming facility” at 1515 Broadway – the same building that houses Disney’s long-running musical The Lion King – after the state’s gaming authorities determine possible gaming licenses and locations sometime next year, at the earliest.

The coalition, the statement says, “brings together three best-in-class organizations – New York’s largest owner of office properties, the nation’s leading gaming company and the world’s preeminent entertainment company – to deliver a crucial plan for the world’s top tourist destination.”

The casino proposal was detailed in October, and was quickly and vehemently opposed by The Broadway League, the trade organization representing theater owners and producers, an opposition at odds with the pro-casino stance taken by the Actors’ Equity Association and other labor unions.

The League reiterated its casino opposition in a letter to its members last month, arguing that a casino would not bring in out-of-towners (“With the exception of Las Vegas, casinos don’t draw tourists and rely heavily on local gamblers,” the League wrote), and that casinos, by design, are built to keep customers inside their own walls.

“Far from driving customers to neighboring businesses, the way theaters do,” the League wrote, “a Times Square casino would draw customers away from existing area restaurants, many of which are small businesses and constitute an integral part of the Broadway ecosystem.” The letter to members also stated, “Every dollar spent at the craps table, roulette wheel or slot machine is a dollar not spent on a play, dinner, or a souvenir.”

The casino coalition, with Roc Nation as its “official entertainment partner,” disagrees. In the announcement on the Roc Nation website, the partners say a Caesars Palace Times Square would bring in more than 7 million new visits to the district annually, and boost local businesses including the theater industry by tens of millions of dollars. In addition, the partners have included a membership award plan that would enable casino customers to use credits toward Broadway shows, local hotels, restaurants and other neighborhood businesses.

The coalition’s statement, however, also includes a disclaimer of sorts, noting that “forward-looking” claims are “are not guarantees of future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially, and we caution you not to place undue reliance on such statements.”

When the plan went public in October, Equity, the labor union representing actors and stage managers, expressed its support, calling the proposal a “game changer” that would not only add jobs but would boost security in the neighborhood (the developers have pledged to use some of the gambling revenues to fund sanitation and safety improvements, including the deployment of new surveillance drones). “We applaud the developer’s commitment to make the neighborhood safer for arts workers and audience members alike,” the union said.


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